If Love is the Answer, What is Love?

romantic love,
What makes love real love?

Everything had a double meaning in my mind; almost all definitions that had to do with relationships had two opposite meanings to me and when I found this truth at the roots of my belief system and began to sort it out, I found some real freedom. I found out that I had learned to accept a lot of false truth about a lot of word meanings.

Take love for instance;  I believed in fairy tale romance, and believed that there would be a prince charming saviour type guy ride in on his trusty steed and sweep me off my feet and then life would be good. Then I would be good enough. I would be loved. Life would begin! Maybe I got that idea from fairy tales, I am not really sure, but I certainly held the belief inside me somewhere. The belief that I could be rescued and that love would be the cure for everything.

But there is another side to what I believe about “love.” For the trauma survivor or the person who suffers with depression, we also have a whole other different belief system about “love”.  Some of us have been taught (in words or in actions) that love is dangerous, frightening and hurtful.  Some of us have been taught (in actions or in consequences) that love is physically painful and terrifying.  Our personal reaction to being loved by someone else largely depends on what our belief system has become about the words and the emotion of “love”. And about how we feel about ourselves as a result of our past experience with it.

In my case I had polar opposite belief systems about love. In my fantasy world, love could cure all evil, love was the answer, love was all I needed. Songs like “If I had you…; you’re the only one that I would ever need “ or “I can’t live is living is without you”; “you are the sunshine of my life” or “All I need is the air that I breath and to love you” oh yeah baby, he (his love) would be the answer to everything.

In reality however, at least in my reality, love hurts, love is mean, love means nothing. I love you means obligation, ownership, disrespect, putting up with being devalued, manipulated and accepting that I am not as important and my needs are not important, but only the person who says that they love me, is important.  This is quite a mixed message and makes love a word charged with many different feelings and fears that are triggered just hearing the words.

My therapist told me that he loved me. I felt extremely uncomfortable and wanted to leave. I thought love was physical. I was sure that I had no choice about it. When I was very fragile, I felt powerless to say no to physical love. In many ways and for many years I didn’t know that I had a choice. I also believed that if someone loved me (even in the wrong definition of love) it was my fault. So good or bad, I believed that I brought everything on myself. Quite an illusion of control, which I thought kept me safe, but also quite a burden of responsibility which was not safe at all.

There was so much really bad stuff around the word love. My mind had been conditioned to believe that love was the most wonderful thing and the answer to everything, but the truth was that most bad things had happened to me under the disguise of love and “I love you” and “because I love you” and “I want what is best for you”. I also thought that romantic love had a lot of physical obligation attached to it. Sex was the price that I had to pay for love. (but was it REALLY love)

I love you is a phrase that is thrown carelessly around; When a child wants love and acceptance so deeply it becomes easy to ignore the red flags from some people and it is also very easy to accept the wrong definition of love.

It helped me immensely to realize that I had the wrong definition of love all along. It also helped me to realize that controllers and abusers NEVER love you with the same definition of love that they want you to follow when it comes to them. 

I thought about the things that I had to do to prove my love and thought about it “they” ever “proved theirs”. I thought about this a lot. If love means that you do what they want, then when will they do what I want? The truth is that love isn’t about doing what someone else wants. It isn’t about being who someone else wants either. I had to learn about what love really is in order to sort myself out. This was one very damaged area in my belief system that was full of lies.  At the root of this was the KEY fact that I did not love myself at all.

I started to ask myself; If love is doing what is best for the one loved then what would that look like in practice? (Remember that self love is a key part of the healing process. Remember that you may also have to think about the definition of “best”.)

 Looking at these complicated and yet logical viewpoints got me a long way out of the love fog I was in and really helped me to realize who loved me and who didn’t. It also gave me some practical application tools when it came to my relationships and with my children.

And when I was able to apply the true definition of love to myself, everything came together.

Please share your experience with the false definition of love, or how you came to feel about the concept of love.

Another little snapshot.

Darlene Ouimet

Related Posts: emotional abandonment, rejection and recovery

                             Invalidation ~ when the truth is not true

                              The problem with Love ~ Fi MacLeod from “you can fly with broken wings”

50 response to "If Love is the Answer, What is Love?"

  1. By: SMD Posted: 13th March

    Hi Darlene,
    Thanks for your support! It means a lot to me…I just wanted to highlight, that even though, my parents taught me the false definition of love. I do better with my children in showing them that love is encouragement, loving, & unconditional. It also involves healthy boundaries, which I actively work on. I don’t instill the fear associated with Love, my parents taught me, and that’s a big difference!….

  2. By: SMD Posted: 12th March

    Hi Darlene,

    This post is what I needed to see!…I’m working on many definitions in my faulty belief system and one of them is “Love”. I was taught by my parents that love means compliance, loyalty, respect, and serving others’ needs. It’s what you do…the saying, “actions speak louder than words”…my mom would say this a lot, if she thought I was stepping out of line & not complying.

    When I started dating in my teens, my boyfriends would always be the first to tell me they loved me. I always felt panic & my fight or fight reaction kicked in. I clearly remember the first time a boy told me he loves me, it was frightening and very exciting at the same time. I was hesitant in saying it back. I never understood the fear/anxiety behind it, until now. I was anxious about what does he want?…in my mind it was connected to sex. Love & sex got mixed up. I did have limits around sex, because I was taught “all boys” wanted was sex and I could “get pregnant” now that I was a “woman”. The message to me was I was no value, except as a means to have sex & get pregnant!

    So, I had many romantic fantasies of love at first sight and I wrote lots of poems about love. Not all of it was romantic, I also expressed my fears of rejection and abandonment. I would get emotionally involved quickly, to please my boyfriend and I loved the intoxicating feeling of Love. Of course, my mom corrected me the first time I said I was in Love. She said, “It’s not love, it’s infatuation.” Well maybe that is true, but that burst my romantic bubble…I believe I was so needy for love that I attached myself to my boyfriends. Obviously, I was not getting my need for Love at home. I also had the belief of unconditional love and my parents love was conditional. I believe they taught me other people do the same…

    My dad would even say he is “sewing his wild oats”…when a boy broke up with me. They were surprised, when I broke up with a boyfriend. I feel angry about the amount of fear they instilled in me. I used to see this as overprotective based on their love for me. But at the same time, they were not allowing me to grow up.

    I currently show love by serving my kids. Although, I do set boundaries on what I will do and I will say no to things they want.
    I also tell them I love them often, encourage them to be independent and teach them about choices & consequences. I do not withdraw my love, based on how they behave…I love & accept them for who they are, with strengths & weaknesses. I’m not God fearing in my approach because my God is loving!….

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 13th March

      This is excellent work! Thanks for sharing it here. You highlight many of the things that go along with the false definition of love.
      Hugs, Darlene

  3. By: Allie Posted: 8th November

    No idea what real love is. Do I love myself? I don’t know. Never known anyone that had the fairy tale love so i know that’s not it.

    I was molested real young then pretty much abused my whole “childhood.” Didn’t have a childhood at all. Love is sex to me. Had quite a bit of sex before 16. Some were late 20s. I was into mostly bad boys. 16-23 I got a good education. Still had lots of sex ranging from sex parties to random. Made me feel good someone wanted me. That was kinda rare. One guy, basically a geek, like me. I told him the girlfriend thing wasn’t going to happen. 15 I think I was. He cried. So, later that day I have him a afternoon he’d never forget. I was a pleaser.

    Went into the entertainment biz where it’s all a party. Orgies, sex clubs, you name it. I still smoke weed. Lucky I never got AIDS or anything with all my whoring. Therapy was lousy. Bipolar so got “help” there which was drugs. Not illegal ones. Benzos. One therapist was real lonely so I seduced her. I guess that’s what happened. She knew my lesbian lifestyle. We both bear some responsibility. Another wanted to and I told him to go to hell. Ah well. Really never had one person “love” me. No intimacy in all that sex either. Whatever intimacy is. It felt good. To be honest, I don’t feel guilt or shame. I don’t.

    If you’re religious, good for you. Was in churches when I had this lovely childhood and, besides holier than thou bunch staring at my development shall we say, they could’ve intervened. Believe in God and that’s it. No offense but save somebody else.

    I’m beginning to wonder what’s healing?

    P.S. – not a hooker, stripper, call girl, etc. if that’s what you’re thinking. 🙂

  4. By: Fi MacLeod Posted: 12th May

    There is absolutely no way that I’m going to feel sorry for my parents, they were and still are pure evil. So what if they had shit done to them they still chose to abuse. To feel sorry for people like that is just wasted emotion. They showed me no mercy and admit no fault to this day. They deserve everything they get. They made choices, bad ones. One thing real love does is not ignore reality or pretend things aren’t as they are.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 12th May

      Hi Fi,
      I totally agree with you in all that you have said here. They deserve what they have put out.

      I feel sorry for my parents that they are not capable to do any of those things that they would have to do in order to make things right. Your parents don’t know anything about love. It sounds like they never did!

      One of the things that I realized for me is that if I didn’t learn it from them, then they never knew it either. Even though they had choices, they didn’t know they did and refused to look at the possibility that they did which is what makes them different then me. AND I AM disgusted with my parents for the choices that they made, yes and I still place the blame and responsibility on them for that. . But I also feel sorry for them that they never were never taught the truth either. That they refuse to open their eyes to see it now… even when I tried to tell them. So yes, they do deserve what they get but at the same time it is very sad. It is a combination of both for me today. The truth could have set them free as well, but yes they chose not to go there.

      It is a tough thing to explain and it has only been this last year or so that I have come to feel sorry for them.. and to really know that they have NO POWER over me anymore.
      Hugs, Darlene

  5. By: Pam Posted: 12th May

    Hi Darlene,

    I also have spent quite a lot of time defining and refining my definition of love. One thing I know for sure is that love always involves respect. People have all different ways for showing their love but when their is not respect it is just a word. I also believe that true love requires action. It is a verb not a noun.

    I have been blessed to really have a good man come into my life and not only love me as I am but teach me what it means to love unconditionally. I always thought I had to earn love and if I didn’t work hard enough, love would be withdrawn. What I knew was not really love but an avenue of control. My parents say “I love you” all of the time but I’ve learned that it is not so much an expression of true caring but instead, they are checking to see if I’m still emotionally connected to them and under their control.

    I truly feel sorry for my parents and people like them because I think they have experienced very little true love. They can’t give it nor receive it because they don’t respect others.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 12th May

      Hi Pam,
      Yes, respect is a big factor. I feel sorry for my parents too… they really got ripped off in the same ways that I did. Never respected in order to learn respect. Never loved in order to know how to love. Never regarded with equal value so that they knew how to see others with equal value.
      Thank you for sharing!
      Hugs, Darlene

  6. By: Karla Reeves Posted: 3rd January

    My is Karla I am on facebook karla reeves. Ive just stumbled on your web site wow I am so over whealmed wow your words are what has been in my heart for yearss. Let me tell you some about me this passed augest2010 I published my first book ,the shades of grace its a christan book about the healing from god . as a child I was abused sexually mentally phyisally . at 16 years old i ran away from home from the controle and the abuse . well now iam 46 years old in councling about all my abuse i suffred as a child , i am writting a series of books ,the next book i am writting is about surrviving domstic vloince forgive me spelling , iam very dylixic . the 3d book i am writting under a diffrent name is about dealing with the tabu subject of sexual abuse of children and how they are groomed . the healing ive gotten from god writting about my life . then my next book is about 4 gennarations of women that have all passed down from mother to daughter the abuse and teaching your daughters to find a abuser. all these books will tie into each other and how abuse has effected the women in my life my mother me my sisters and breacking the cycle of abuse and how the healing starts with me and my daughter. ive spented time in a domstic womens shelter and the things i went threw as a co depended woman and victome of abuse . my goal is to follow gods will for me and its a healing menistiory of healing threw my books . its the hardest thing ive done is writting my books . i know i am not special my words are otherswords that dont have the words to speak the truth of healing . i let other women know they arnt alone when it comes to abuse , just like ive written in my first book , abuse knows no boundrys it knows no aboudrys of being rich or poor .
    all the years of my life I hated myself , i didnt really didnt know why but iam learing that its due to all ive been abuse ive been threw. thanks so what you write on this web site .

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 5th January

      Hi Karla,
      Welcome to Emerging from Broken! It is wonderful that you are writing all these books and sharing your life with others who have no voice. This is a passion that you and I share.
      I am glad that you are here. Please feel free to share as often as you wish.
      Hugs, Darlene

  7. By: Fi MacLeod exNicholson Posted: 22nd November

    Oh wow Darleen, yes I see – somehow it’s easier for me to say ‘I feel violated’ rather than ‘I was violated’ probably because I’m trying to avoid getting in touch with the truth of the terrible things done to me

    – partly because I still blame myself for not doing anything to stop it

    – my worker said to me today “what could a 3/5/6/7/9 year old child have done? She was so tiny surrounded by all those abusive adults.” I looked at her a little lost for words, I knew she was right! But that 3-year old little girl still feels it’s her fault for being a good little girl and complying because that’s what good little girls do.

    – But yes that little girl was violated.

    – And yes, that is the truth!

    Great point!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 22nd November

      I know exactly what you are talking about; I sat stunned when my therapist told me the same thing… and I even realized why I thought I COULD have done something… and I sat there speechless… realizing that I was abused… I was violated, I was BLAMELESS. And it didn’t go away all in one day once I realized it, but it was a HUGE beginning on the right road!
      Hugs, Darlene

  8. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 22nd November

    just a little thing, but these little things ended up being huge for me in my recovery ~ you said “He sees me as pure and untainted however violated I “FEEL”. Those were places where I got stuck. He sees you as pure and untainted ~ yes. But it is “however violated you were” (“however violated I was” Or “I am” ) What happened to you isn’t just a feeling, it is the truth. You were violated. You have been extremely violated. Little things like that were huge when I said them a different way. It was like I validated myself just switching the words like that.

    I used to say things like “I feel like it might have been wrong that…………” and when someone told me that it WAS wrong I was stunned. So I am careful about my words to myself and about the abuse now.
    Just had to say….
    hugs, Darlene

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